Vinegar Syndrome has made a reputation for resurrecting obscure gems from exploitation film history, and they’ve made some particularly exciting discoveries in the world of 1970s adult cinema. Before moving their hardcore features to the new Peekarama DVD line, Vinegar Syndrome released a Drive-In Collection double feature of films by New York-based filmmaker Kemal Horulu, VIRGIN AND THE LOVER and LUSTFUL FEELINGS. Horulu made films through the 1970s into the mid-80s, sharing actors with fellow adult filmmakers like Radley Metzger and Carter Stevens. Their double feature disc is another look at the golden age of 1970s adult cinema, when filmmakers actually took the time to write stories and develop characters.
1973’s VIRGIN AND THE LOVER plays mostly as an odd psychodrama until the very end. Eric Edwards plays Paul, a handsome young man who is in therapy for his relationship problems. Paul fell in love with a woman (Nancy Marshall) he met at a party where he was dressed as a woman and she was dressed as a man. They had a brief, passionate affair–his first–but she was killed in a car accident and ever since Paul has found himself unable to be intimate with a real woman. Instead, he keeps a mannequin dressed in his late girlfriend’s clothes, and when he sees a woman he’s attracted to, he goes home and projects his desires onto the mannequin. This would be problem enough, but Paul’s an erotic filmmaker, and his therapist’s gorgeous secretary (Leah Marlon) is aggressively trying to get him into bed.
Edwards proves that he’s a capable leading man in his turn here, giving a decent performance as Paul even if the film (and his performance) doesn’t go quite as deep into the character’s neuroses as it could have. However, this isn’t exactly a hard-hitting drama, this is porn, and the film’s extended 90-minute running time is filled with more than ample evidence of that. Along with Edwards, it features several actors who will be familiar to fans of 70s adult cinema: Darby Lloyd Rains (Radley Metzger’s THE PRIVATE AFTERNOONS OF PAMELA MANN and NAKED CAME THE STRANGER, Gerard Damiano’s MEMORIES WITHIN MISS AGGIE), Susan Sloan (Carter Stevens’ THE HOT OVEN and THE MOUNT OF VENUS, Joe Sarno’s ABIGAIL LESLIE IS BACK IN TOWN), Jennifer Welles (Sarno’s MISTY and CONFESSIONS OF A YOUNG AMERICAN HOUSEWIFE, Chuck Vincent’s MRS. BARRINGTON), and Marc Stevens (too many credits to mention) all make appearances here. Director Kemal Horulu uses his cast and his New York locations to the fullest, and while the tone is occasionally a little confused (appropriate given its protagonist’s situation), VIRGIN AND THE LOVER is a sex film that’s also a surprisingly solid character study.
The second feature on this disc is 1978’s LUSTFUL FEELINGS, starring Jamie Gillis as Tony, a low-level cocaine dealer who finds himself in over his head with some dangerous characters. His connection Paul (Ras Kean of Radley Metzger’s THE OPENING OF MISTY BEETHOVEN) suggests that Tony put his girlfriend Joanna (Leslie Bovee, Metzger’s MARISCHINO CHERRY and Stanley Kurlan’s ERUPTION, also starring John Holmes) to work doing nude photography and maybe dancing in Paul’s club. Tony pitches the idea to Joanna, unaware that she’s frustrated with their relationship. She jumps at the chance for some variety and soon finds herself working with Claudette (Eva Henderson, of Carter Stevens’ JAIL BAIT and Gerard Damiano’s ODYSSEY: THE ULTIMATE TRIP), who shows her the ropes while putting on a girl/girl show for a voyeur client (the legendary Robert Kerman in a very memorable cameo). While Joanna is out racking up clients and bedding Paul, Tony makes some coke deliveries and nails his neighbor Sharon (Nancy Dare, Bud Townsend’s ALICE IN WONDERLAND: AN X-RATED FANTASY), who obviously wants more from him than just a regular afternoon fling.
Once again, Horulu uses his cast and locations expertly, giving LUSTFUL FEELINGS a genuinely gritty tone. This is only enhanced by the dark direction that the film takes in its final act, after Joanna becomes so popular that word gets out on the street about her, and Tony finds himself with a shocking surge of jealousy. For most of its running time, LUSTFUL FEELINGS is just as sexy as the occasionally comedic VIRGIN AND THE LOVER, although it’s a more “realistic” drama with very little humor. Where most of the action in VIRGIN AND THE LOVER is a fantasy in its lead character’s mind, everything that happens in LUSTFUL FEELINGS is firmly grounded in reality, giving it a much different tone. Given that realism it’s not too much of a shock where our characters end up when the final title card appears; it’s hard to believe anyone would be leaving a theater playing LUSTFUL FEELINGS with a smile on their face, unless they just stopped paying attention about 20 minutes before the movie ended.
True to the established Vinegar Syndrome standard of preservation, both films look fantastic, scanned in 2k from the films’ 35mm camera negatives. The DVD also includes the full theatrical trailers for both films, a nice little bonus and a fun look at how the films were marketed: “Passion and perversion erupt on the screen in a non-stop orgy of carnality!” As usual, this is a top-shelf release from Vinegar Syndrome, and well worth picking up for fans of the golden age of adult film.
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